Asian nations shun exploitative Aussie agricultural visas

The new Agricultural Visa program came into effect in October and provides pathways for permanent residency for workers from 10 South-East Asian nations provided they pledge to become indentured with an employer for at least three years.

The requirements attached to the “Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement” relating to these visas are also very loose:

The HILA will allow Australian businesses in the industry to sponsor overseas workers across 31 occupations, and provides concessions to standard skilled visa requirements.

Key features include:

  • additional occupations not on existing Skilled Occupation Lists
  • salary concession (10 per cent discount on the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold, currently $53,900 per annum)
  • age concession (up to 50 years of age)
  • English language concession
  • pathway to permanent residence.

Interestingly, no countries have signed onto the new visa, which the Morrison Government blames on scaremongering by the Australian Workers Union (AWU):

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the new visa holders would be on farms by Christmas and begin to ease the industry’s chronic seasonal worker shortage.

But negotiations with the Southeast Asian countries the new program was targeting has stumbled. Mr Littleproud pointed the finger at the AWU for generalising and demonising Australian farmers to international representatives, which had muddied the waters.

“The AWU has met with ambassadors and visitors, and contacted many embassies from Southeast Asia, encouraging them not to sign up to the agricultural visa because they believe that Australian farmers will exploit their citizens,” Mr Littleproud said.

“I don’t know why the AWU hates Australia so much and hates farmers so much.

The AWU’s national secretary Dan Walton hit back hard:

“Our union has no desire to ­demonise agriculture, but nor will we stay silent about an industry which, report after report, has shown is addicted to worker ­exploitation and worker abuse,” he told The Australian.

“If your industry serves up a mountain of bad apples you have to be unethical, stupid, or both to ignore the need for systemic ­reform.”

Mr Walton said the union would continue to sound warnings about the agriculture visa, describing it as “dangerous” and an avenue for “more exploitation”.

The Seasonal Workers Program (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) are widely regarded as being the best regulated farm visa programs. Yet these too have been exposed for “modern slavery“.

All existing forms of farm visas have been ruthlessly exploited by farmers, and the Morrison Government’s agricultural visas will only make the power imbalance and exploitation even worse.

As noted by Abul Rizvi, “it now seems inevitable Australia will join the many nations around the world where exploitation and abuse of low skill guest workers is just a normal part of the economy and society”.

The AWU is justified in speaking out.

Unconventional Economist


  1. boomengineeringMEMBER

    Just finished cafe meal at Flower Power. Mosied around and missus pointed out Snake plants for $140. Are people really paying for weeds these days. If so they should be able to pay higher wages despite high RE costs.

  2. I'll have anotherMEMBER

    I doubt the AWU is responsible for whether an overseas nation signs a visa agreement.

    Perhaps they simply did their own research?

  3. Wht would Asian countries want to encourage their workers to immigrate permanently? Where’s the benefit for them?

    • cuturhairMEMBER

      The Aust government would argue that it would help increase remittance back to the home country of the workers. Of course, if the fruit pickers are being leeched for all their worth by all the exploitive labour hire / accommodation providers in the agricultural industries then those remittances would be pretty meagre.

      • Jumping jack flash

        AUD is still very valuable compared to other currencies out there, but you’re right.

    • They bring and/or send their precious AUD to their countries whilst ironically helping these over-crowded countries do the opposite of what out politicians want (depopulate).

  4. You should target labour hire companies. I get why you continually reference farmers, as it makes good reading, but the labour hire companies are the real issue. Farmers should be made to employ directly.

    • The labour hire firms provide farmers with an arm’s length defence against being charged with knowingly employing non- citizens without work rights. The farmers know what’s going on and yet hypocritically claim that they are complying with the law.

  5. More likely the local press in those Asian countries ran articles about farm workers being paid $53,000 pa and being charged $52,000 pa in accommodation and food by the serf-overlord-farmer.

    • Jumping jack flash

      This is how its done.

      Yet, surprisingly some people still think that these workers are here to be active participants in the economy and contribute meaningfully to demand.

      How can they possibly become eligible for the amounts of debt that are required to be successful in this country?

      2019 proved beyond a doubt that the farmers et. al. spending their stolen wages on debt and consumption is simply not good enough to keep the economy from shrinking and maintaining the correct amounts of demand required to stop retail businesses from closing all over the place.

      Perhaps farmer’s wives don’t shop at Myer?

      We are destined to return to the conditions of 2019 unless we get a boost to demand, and debt creation/spending, and the only way that will happen now is by increased wages, and the only way that can happen is with increased prices. Don’t expect the farmers to give up some of their stolen wages, because all of that has already been allocated to acquiring debt which has already been spent

      • Most farmers would sooner self immolate than share any of their “hard gotten” serf exploitation profits. Such profits are after all their god given landed gentry right.

        Time will reflect very poorly on the post GFC period and indeed reflect poorly on the post 1971 period where capital has unreservedly stolen value from labour.

        Trickle down economics was always implausibly stupid.

        That the masses accepted that the capital-rich would somehow spend their way to the prosperity of the working masses is absurd.

        Having said that the MSM is primarily to blame for its abject failure to scrutinise the voodoo economics of the post GFC (corptocratic) period.

  6. What is MB proposing, indentured labour for work shy regional youth or transporting urban unemployed to regional areas for forced labour?

    I’d prefer this system of willing properly paid overseas workers versus being a child in a farming family, which is also indentured labour i.e. free board, then later as adults working on family farm, taking a part time job for actual income (asset rich/cash poor).

    There is an inconvenient truth that MB skirts round while focusing upon increased urbanisation, international education, backpackers etc. mobility and temporary population growth, i.e. population ageing and decline in regions.

    This is exemplified by low/below replacement fertility rates, merging of farms, children migrate to towns or cities for opportunities, primary schools close, sports teams disappear or merge (even whole leagues); most farming people would laugh at the idea of ‘over population’ and many would welcome refugees or anyone, to boost their local communities and services.

    However, regions following legacy media, are voting for the National Party that keeps the LNP government in power.